Trust

Trust.
This is what I saw out my window every night while in the Philippines this past week. 27 floors up, overlooking the city.

Trust. 
It was and is a reminder to me that in EVERYTHING I do or I am too afraid to do ... I need to Trust in the One who has brought me this far. The One who has been faithful and patient and kind towards me. The One who has never forsaken me or left me and always, always wants the best for me. The One who wants me to choose what is right and just, not what is selfish and self-seeking. 

Trust. 
I sensed Him saying to me every night as I looked out my window "Melinda, please TRUST me in this new year - as you start new things, as you get married and begin a new season with Chris ... Trust that I will take care of Dory and her family, let go of all of your control and Trust me."

And so, I committed to that promise - to Trust Him. To really Trust in His ways, His promises, His character ... to be open handed and open hearted to see and receive ALL that He has for me this year.
I hope that YOU can do that too. 

Trust.
To Trust in the One who loves you completely. Absolutely. Unconditionally. 

Happy New Year - what a year it will be! #Trust#GodsStory

 

The Labyrinth + Dialogue with god

After lunch, a delicious vegetarian feast, I decided to head over to the Labyrinth - just past the cemetery beside the road - on the lush grounds of The Loyola House in Guelph, Ontario in Canada. 

A Labyrinth is an interesting activity or discipline .. where you walk around this convoluted circle, inhaling and exhaling OUT your past and inhaling and exhaling what God is saying to you -- or what you think God is saying to you. It's a forced discipline to hear from HIM, to be silent and listen. It'a an intentional way of slowing down - your breathing, your walk, your heartbeat, your thoughts in your mind and silencing the voices and activities in your head.

So, do I even want to do this?

I read the pamphlet in the foyer before I left the House so I know exactly what to do. My control issues are coming out strong. 

And now, I stood at the mouth of the labyrinth. I took a deep breath ... and started walking .. trying to be very deliberate and not rush through this experience, this process like it was a roller coaster ride or something of amusement. 

I had no idea what to expect. but I did expect HIM to show up and talk to me.

I have no qualms having this expectation from Him since we are in a relationship albeit He's better at it than I am. (But that's another story regarding my commitment issues!)

So, I begin to walk in the circle, rather briskly but the rain was falling and I was getting wet (which I hate) and then I chose to slow down and listen to my breathing, looking at the leaves on the path scattered here and there.

As I was doing this these questions came to mind:

  1. What am I going to do for a job? (I had just left an organization that I was affiliated for close to nine years!) That's another story.
     
  2. Am I a wicked person? I am a wicked person
     
  3. I should really write down or say aloud WHY I am a wicked person
     
  4. Nah, I don't really want to - but I probably will
     
  5. Okay, I will write them down but for only ME to see and I will NOT post them up on my blog
     
  6. Fine. I'll post up one.

SELFISHNESS. Which brought back a flood of memories from my past, broken relationships. 

And after four more points for improvement that I pondered on this walk .. I started crying as the rain started falling harder  ... and then .. I heard HIM. 

I did.

I heard Him say ' Stay, and let the rain wash over you and cleanse you - release you from from these "wicked" things that you think you are - it's going to be okay .. be free, be cleansed, you are forgiven.'

And I cried. And cried. And cried. And then I told him that some of these things I needed to remedy myself and He agreed.

"But for this time right now, in this Labyrinth receive cleansing, like the rain falling."

Funny, my initial tendency and response was to jump ship and leave as soon as the rain started falling stronger and harder .. but He said to stay and keep walking through.

"Walk in it and through it. Get to the center. Just get to the center."

So, I kept walking around and around - no rhyme or reason. A labyrinth is designed this way. It's confusing and not logical and that my friend, is its purpose.

It's not about the logical but forcing yourself to conform not to the worlds rhythm and pace, but to His.

And I kept walking and confessing and crying and the rain was falling harder and I finally get to the center which is a graveled circle with a bench and stones leading to it, surrounded by tall grass. And honestly, I didn't want to sit because I didn't want to get my pants and coat wet (vanity) so I stood, outstretched my arms, looked up to the heavens and I seriously heard Him say (again)

"I've GOT you!"

Me: Yes (quietly, almost a whisper)

"You can say it louder!"

Me: Okay (above a whisper)

YOU are cleansed!"

Me: Yes (semi-louder)

"You can say it louder!"

Me: Okay (more than semi-louder)

"You can say it even louder!'

Me: OKAY

"Do you trust me?"

Me: Yes (medium-semi loud with slight hesitation)

"Do you know that I'm with you?"

Me: Yes

"Do you know that sometimes you don't need to know and have all of the answers?"

Me: Like what job I'm going to have in the next few months?

"             " [He didn't respond to that last questions}

Me: Yes (because I didn't know what to say to that ..)

"I love you as you are"

Me: yes ... Yes ... YES!

... and then the rain started falling heavier and I was getting really wet and cold and you're supposed to walk back out of the labyrinth the same way you entered and I asked Him if it was okay to just walk straight out and get back to The Loyola House to warm up.

"Yes, it's called GRACE."

Me: I know ... (whisper, with a sigh of relief)

 

 

You are loved.

You are loved beyond words. Beyond landscapes. Beyond anything you can comprehend.

You are Significant. Wanted. Beautiful. ENOUGH.

You need to stop striving, managing a false life and really live honestly, authentically, complete and whole.

It is enough. YOU are more than enough.

If it was only YOU, I would have died for only you.

Not for what you could do or be. But, because of YOU.

Whom I absolutely love. Completely. Wholly. LOVE

I wrote that on November 9th, 2014, looking out over the cold lake at my girlfriends cottage in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

We were there for a girls get-a-way weekend that consisted of all things good. Hanging out, eating a lot of chocolate, vision-boarding, sleeping, napping, snoozing, eating good food and visiting small boutique wineries and discovering that WINE had to be created by God -With all of its complexities, different tastes, of course it had to be!

We were also learning that when roots of the vines stay shallow because of a lot of rain - it is easy growing -  but the grapes are BLAH. But when it is a drier season ( a harder season with not a lot of rain) the roots have to go deeper into the soil and access the sub layers of the soil for nutrients and growth. This makes the grapes more flavourful and with more complexity and depth. 

So, as I was thinking about that over the weekend .. I realized the truth of that resonated with my own life and story.

The harder the season, the more 'deep' you become and the more you know you can endure and get through.

You begin to understand that you can relate to others in a deeper and authentic place and space.

When things are 'easy,' we tend not to rely on God or need Him and we become more selfish, self focused, less empathetic, less thoughtful.. less open to the needs of others and ultimately ourselves.

It's in the 'dry' times, the tough, dark-night-of-the-soul times .. that you get to truly know yourself and you get to know God in a completely new and intimate way. That was my experience. It's what got me through some of the toughest seasons of my life.

God is good. Faithful. Always present even when we don't 'feel' Him or believe that He really cares.

He loves you and always will.

 

 

 

 

Trees

A few months ago I decided to 'go silent' and headed to the beautiful Ignatius Jesuit Spiritual Retreat Centre in Guelph, Ontario.

I had been there many moons ago, asking God for a very specific answer concerning a very specific boyfriend. And after six excruciating hours of silence. no. talking. to anyone. except. the. man. upstairs. I actually heard from HIM on a rock, by a lake with the sun shining in my eyes. I heard HIM very clearly. And the next day, I broke up with my boyfriend. Which was the best for both of us... in time. (That's another story to blog about one day)

So, here I was again asking God for another very specific answer to another very specific question.. or rather, questions. I actual am embarrassed that in Crayola red and brown marker I have a WHOLE page in my BIG journal (sketch pad) that says "EXPECTATIONS for My Loyola House Visit." Rather presumptuous,, don't you think?

Anyway, I arrive to silence. Get to my day room. Check out my surroundings and where I can get coffee and take pee breaks throughout the day. Sit and look out on the gardens, the fountain and the serene, Psalm 23 landscape. My soul stirs and my breathing becomes louder and the silence envelopes me. And I begin to cry...

There is something mystical, magical and healing about silence. Silencing the deafening demands of the world and the shrilling expectations from .. me. Silence. Inhale. Exhale. The creak of my Hunter boot on the old floor. The fire crackling in the fireplace. The lounge hall door opening and closing. Beautiful Catholic sisters and brothers in their own thoughts, asking God for answers.

Annnnd, then, it was time for me to get outside .. get some fresh air, have an 'out loud' conversation with HIM , and find the stations of the cross so I could feel and know that I did something worthwhile and achieved something productive. I am a mess. A control freak. A doer-holic.

So, as I was trying to find the Stations of the Cross and/or Labyrinth just outside of the Loyola House, I stumbled upon or rather found this walkway that leads to the Stations o the cross AND cosmos (who knew?) It's a path covered with wood chips, rather wide ... with this expanse of trees - foreboding tall trees - lining the path on each side. The branches extend to one another like arms reaching, grasping to create a trust hammock. (I always hated those things at camp) Overhead, covering and protecting me from the rain that was lightly falling.

I got about ten steps down the path when I looked up and stopped in my tracks. Awe and wonder engulfed me. The branches were protecting me.

trees.jpg

I couldn't move.

I stood there looking up at the trees, the branches while the rain was falling on my face.

I was totally stunned. Stunned by this simple picture.

Trees protecting me from the rain and the elements.

And then ... I heard HIM

This is me, Melinda, covering you, protecting you, shielding you, loving you, with you.

I heard it. I heard HIM all around me.

I couldn't look down. I couldn't move. I just stood there on the path not wanting to visit the 'stations of the cross' and began to cry.

Light tears at first and then into a full sob. Crying because I knew this truth. Crying because at that specific moment I REALLY knew this truth and I REALLY needed to hear it today and I REALLY needed to be reminded that HE is covering me. He's got me. He's protecting me. He is always with me even when I have NO IDEA what I am going to do or how I'm going to get there.

He is with me.

The rain continued to fall and I slowly walked down the path ... ever so slowly, aware of the crunch of the wood chips under my Hunter boots and ever so aware of His voice echoing:

I've got you, covering you. No matter what, no matter what path you take or where you're headed, YOU ARE MINE. I AM YOURS. TOGETHER.

Cheeks stained with tears.. I kept walking.

 

Walking In My MANY Shoes


Imelda Marcos left at least 3000 pairs of shoes behind when she and her dictator husband, Ferdinand, were driven out of their Malacanan Palace in the Philippines in a 1986 revolt by the People’s Power.  

3000 pairs of shoes left behind. 

Astonishing. Excessive. Ridiculous. Embarrassing. However you look at it, it conjures up feelings of distaste or ecstasy.  Imagine how many children she could have sponsored, or how many social justice initiatives and micro-finance loans in developing countries she could have supported.
 
Some of you get the excess, don’t you? And it doesn’t really bother you, does it?
 
Maybe I should just speak for myself and say that I’m feeling tense and conflicted or is it more like ‘convicted’ as I write this. One side of my brain says having this many shoes is disgusting, grotesque, not at all what my Christian faith would condone or support. The other ‘base’ side of my brain says - I get it - because there is something about shoes that makes a woman sing or at least feel good when she slips her size 6 or even size nine manicured or calloused foot in a good shoe or wedge or Hunter boot or Jimmy Choo stiletto that you scored on Kijiji (as you hope to GOD that it’s authentic and not from some Canal Street dealer) Shoes (the right shoe) make your heart race, your posture straighter and stronger, your skirt shorter, your legs longer, your body taller… a bonus for someone who is beautifully only 4’10 1/2”. 

Which brings me back to Imelda - which is my unofficial nickname given to me by my dad or was that by my ex-boyfriend who had a thing for ‘asian’ women? Doesn’t matter.
 
Imelda… Melinda

So close. But not at all the same, except for our birthplace, our hair colour (thanks to Elie my hairstylist!) the colour of our skin and our desire for shoes .. lots of them!

Why do I really like shoes? 

Because they are a thing of Beauty. Because there is nothing like a strappy heel to make a dress and YOU on fire! And, with that kind of confidence a girl can do just about anything. 
#Legal. 

Because they make my heart race. Because  there is something about the colour, texture, style and leather smell that makes my heart beat a little faster and gets my adrenaline pumping. 
#Addiction.

I have enjoyed shoes for as long as I can remember. My white reebok runners with rainbow laces, my purple satin graduation pumps that matched (of course) my puffy purple dress, my first Tretorns, my first platform boot from Aldo, my first Versace stiletto with gold sparkles, my first orthotic shoe (Mephisto), my first Hunter rain boot, my first moment when I hit over 100 shoes in my own personal collection.
#Memories

I don’t like to admit it though, owning (not renting) over 100 pairs of shoes. What if people judge me - which they will… and have.  What if people judge my priorities  - which they will and have. What if people judge my character - which they will. So, I keep it a secret and only tell close friends and family.. and strangers that I may happen to meet at a bar or pub and feel that the conversation is going nowhere and so decide to tell them about my excessive shoe collection. That always prompts further discussion on consumption, social responsibility, vanity and usually nothing important at all.

So why ‘Imelda?  I think she represents all the excessiveness one can spend and obtain at the detriment and expense of all others or a nation for that matter.

It’s my warning. Not that I’m responsible for the well being of a nation, but a warning that when your life becomes obsessed with excess ... you can bet that people will suffer and you will suffer, much like the Filipino people did during the reign of Marcos in the early 1980’s. 

Have I suffered? Yes. Have I made others suffer? Yes. Was the ‘getting of things’ worth it? Some days... but most days not.  

We have a responsibility to one another AND to ourselves. Financially, emotionally, spiritually and physically. we’re all in this together. and though the shoes and her mink coats that were all left behind in the takeover, years later her “treasures” were ruined by termites and rain and the elements because no one gave a dam about them and stored them in regular cardboard boxes at some museum in the Philippines. 

Maybe they did it (subconsciously) out of embarrassment for that part of their history or maybe because at the end of day it’s just shoes, stuff… and it doesn’t speak to you, or help make you a better person or love you or hold your hand or help you pack when your husband has left you or give you a shoulder to cry on when your heart is broken again.

It’s just stuff. IT’s just shoes.

So, on this journey - walking in my many shoes - I’m learning, just like you. I don’t have it all together... yet, but one day I hope to. Probably not until I meet my Creator. But when I do, I hope I have a great pair of Christian Loboutins on as I enter .. and not just enter .. but DANCE through those pearly gates.

 

Hope and Cheer

Psalm 94:19
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
 
I’ve gotta be honest.
I’ve been doubting a lot this past year.
Doubting that as I get older, ( I just celebrated another Birthday in a decade that I haven’t been to fond of) I won’t be as relevant or ‘cool’ to my millenial friends and colleagues.
Doubting that my cyclical issues won’t continue to haunt me for the next decade.
Doubting that I’ll never get out of debt.
Doubting that my dreams will never be fully realized or accomplished and that I’ll have regrets on my death bed.
I know it sounds depressing … but I just want to be honest with you and really .. honest with myself.
So, as I look forward to this new season (albeit scary) in my life ( I just left a great organization just over a month ago .. with no 'real' job to go to!) with endless possibilities, I hang on to the words in Psalm  94:19 that says God’s comfort will give me renewed hope and cheer even when doubts fill my mind.
I love that.
God will comfort me when I’m distressed, stressed out, out-of-my-mind with worry, worried about my future and finances – His comfort will give me renewed hope and cheer.
I love Cheer.
I was a Cheerleader when I was in junior high and in high school and so cheering just comes so natural to me. “Go Team Go!”
And yes, I’ve realized that I need more cheer in my life – those who will cheer me on to keep going when I fail or fall down – and I need to cheer others on through their hardships and happy times. We all need CHEER!
I need more Hope.
Hope that speaks out the best in myself and others. Hope that when I let God take control of my life and ‘all things,’ things are better, manageable because in and of myself I can’t do it all .. and when I let Him take control .. somehow there’s a peace I feel, a joy that gives me strength and a love that can endure forever.
So there it is. My ‘Almost-the-end-of-year-just-after-my-birthday’ resolution. That when doubts fill my mind, I will look to God for his comfort and assurance and know that He will give me renewed HOPE and CHEER.
And with that said .. ‘Go Girlfriends!’ .. ‘You can do it! CHEER ON!

 

Twice Adopted

It was December 9, 2003. I was pacing nervously in a room at the Open Doors SE Asia office in Quezon City, Philippines. My heart was racing – anybody close enough to me would have seen it outside of my chest. The perspiration from the humidity outside and the nervousness I felt was beginning to trickle down my left temple onto my cheek. I felt faint. I was excited. I was scared. And I was expecting the door to open at any moment.
 
There was a knock at the door. Our Filipina translator peeked in. “Are you ready, Melinda?” she asked. I looked at my dad who had video camera in hand and nervously replied “Yes.” The door opened and in walked two petite women with dark, wide, brown eyes, and hesitant smiles. The air felt heavy, weighty, and then crackled with anticipation and release. After thirty years and months of trying to locate her half way across the world, there she was. Dory. My biological mother.
 
It all began in 1973 when my parents, Paul and Dianne Estabrooks, decided to adopt a Filipina baby girl. They were missionaries from Canada in the Philippines with two young children of their own. The few Filipino orphans who are adopted locally tend to be boys. So they requested the next baby girl available. That was me!
 
Over the years I always knew that I was very special. One day my parents overheard me say to my older brother and sister, “Mom and Dad HAD to take you, but they CHOSE me.” Maybe a little too special!
 
I was loved and given every opportunity in life. But even though I was extremely secure in my “adopted” identity, I still longed to one day meet the woman who courageously brought me into this world and gave me up for adoption.
 
But how would that be possible?
 
We only had one tattered record of my birth certificate and limited info about my biological parents. The social worker at the Abiertas House of Friendship who was involved in my adoption had already passed away. And the Philippines was thousands of miles from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada where my parents and I lived. How was this all going to work out?
 
Well, definitely not by my strength or capability but only through God’s grace and intervention. So with that in mind, I prayed, my family prayed, my friends prayed, my church prayed, people I didn’t even know prayed that somehow I would find my biological mother or at least information about her and my father. We didn’t know if she was even alive. We didn’t know if she was still in the Philippines or had moved to another country. All these questions had no answers and doubts kept coming up in my mind.
 
One day while I was journaling and having my “quiet time,” God spoke to me and reminded me of His promise in the book of Isaiah. It also brought back a wonderful childhood memory when my best friend, Kerri, gave me this “life verse” when we were vacationing with our families in Waikiki, Hawaii. After a day in the sun and finding pearls in oyster shells, she told me that this verse would help me through all of life’s bad times. So wise for an eight-year-old! Twenty-four years later, that verse from Kerri - and God’s reminder - came to me loud and clear. I read from

Isaiah 41:10 -
"DO not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
 
I realized something that I had known for a long time but needed to be reminded of again. God is always with me – even when things seem too big or bad or overwhelming or impossible. He is always there with me. I have nothing to fear.
 
But I was fearful and pretty anxious. The more I sat there thinking about my life and this possible reunion and I realized something pretty earth shattering and life-changing. Whether I found my birth mother or not, and whatever her reaction or decision would be, - no matter what - it would be okay. God was with me. I was going to be okay.
 
Well, during my “epiphany moment,” the phone rang and it was a phone call that would change my life forever. Dad had just heard from his colleagues in the Philippines that my birth mother, nick-named Dory, was alive and well and wanted to meet me.
 
When I heard she wanted to see me, I cried. I cried because it was only through God’s help that finding her was accomplished. I cried because so many people in Manila, Philippines and all across Canada and the world, my church, my work place, my family and friends were praying for me and supporting me throughout the entire search. I had nothing to fear, God was with me. God was for me.
 
As I looked at my birth mother for the first time on that December morning, it was beautiful. I finally was meeting someone that I looked like. A blood relation! Throughout our meeting she explained why she gave me up for adoption. She wanted to know about my life (Try and put thirty years into a two hour time frame! Impossible)!  
 
The most emotional and wonderful thing then took place. Dory looked at my Dad and through our translator said, “Thank you for taking care of Melinda and giving her opportunities that I could have never given her.” And then my Dad looked at Dory and replied, “Thank you for going through with the pregnancy with Melinda and being courageous enough to give her up for adoption. She has given us much joy and we love her.”
 
There was not a dry eye in the room.
 
And at the end of an emotional reunion – me showing pictures of my life (thanks to my Mom putting that together before I left) – I finally told Dory what I had always wanted to say. Two words: “Thank You.” Two words that summed up all that was bursting inside me…Thank you for giving me LIFE. LIFE to find joy in relationships and joy in knowing and following Jesus. LIFE to experience opportunity and heartache, possibilities and disappointments. LIFE to know love and pain, laughter and regrets, forgiveness and healing, break-throughs and brokenness, freedom and struggle, depression and delight, peace and fear.  A LIFE to love and be loved.
 
This moment was truly “life-changing” for me, my family, and the many people that were a part of this incredible and meaningful reunion. I can’t help but remember an e-mail that was sent to me by my friend, Paul, before I left on this trip. It said, “Melinda, here is a verse that I know will encourage you. Know that we’re praying for you and love you. Ephesians 1:3-5 (New Living Translation)
'All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

Let's always remember that we give God GREAT pleasure.  No matter what has happened in our past or how broken we are, God chooses us.  Knowing all that He knows about us, accepting our fears and fragility, our pride and our pettiness... He wants us, He sees us as His own and we are ALL adopted.